(Wii U eShop)

Abyss (Wii U eShop)

Game Review

Abyss Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jake Shapiro

We all live in a cyclops submarine

Abyss is perhaps exactly the sort of game the Wii U eShop needs in greater numbers: adventurous little indie titles with strong artistic vision and a focus on core game mechanics. With a budget price tag, you can't afford not to try out Barcelona studio EnjoyUp Games' HD re-release of its attractive 2012 DSiWare title.

Reminiscent of early NES titles, Abyss is a minimalist affair without even any storyline unless you read the instruction manual: It’s the distant future of Earth in the year 3024 when humans have depleted almost all natural resources, and the world government has sent you, a creepy bio-mechanical deep-sea cyclops squid submarine called Nep2no, to harvest a new energy source called Gaia. There are no cutscenes and you don’t encounter anyone else on your journey; Abyss is a dark, difficult, and ultimately rewarding adventure.

Abyss limits its scope and concentrates on a satisfying core gameplay loop: you must navigate Nep2no through a series of underwater caverns, collecting the six Gaia orbs on each level. There are no enemies — the challenge comes from the level layouts themselves and the control scheme. As we noted in our review of the DSiWare version, Abyss’ simple controls are similar to those of Balloon Fight; all you do is steer your character with the control stick or D-pad, and accelerate with any of the face buttons (there are no touch screen controls).

Be careful, though, because the underwater physics mean even the slightest acceleration can send Nep2no hurtling towards a wall; abrupt changes in direction and 90-degree turns can be disastrous for first-time players. If you collide with the wall, Nep2no flashes for a few seconds before recovering; if you crash again while Nep2no’s flashing, you explode in a dazzling display of light and must start the level over again. Abyss is all about calculating momentum, so you can’t speed through the levels unless you’re an experienced Nep2no pilot; there’s no time limit, but your time for each level is recorded for the (offline) leaderboard.

The same action is displayed on both the GamePad and television screen, so off-TV play is simple, but it’s not recommended. Abyss features plenty of dark levels with black backgrounds and dark-dark-grey obstacles to differentiate between, and the full brightness of a true television display is easier to use for these colours than the relatively dim GamePad screen.

Abyss features two modes available at the start: Missions and Two-Player. Missions is the core experience, consisting of 12 short levels of increasingly infuriating difficulty. Two-player mode is exactly what it sounds like: two players racing to the finish — or to the death, whichever comes first — with one player on the GamePad screen and the other using the TV screen and Wii Remote. Unfortunately there’s no online play or support for the Wii U Pro Controller, but for such a simple low-cost game it’s not a huge transgression. Once you finish all 12 levels in Missions, you can unlock Dark Mode, an even tougher collection of levels with eight Gaia in each instead of six, and the time-attack Arcade Mode.

Where Abyss shines is its presentation. Nep2no sports a single wandering eye, lazy and disinterested in the danger surrounding it. The underwater trenches and caverns are pitch-black, illuminated only by Nep2no’s deep-sea antenna light, like a terrifying anglerfish. The light grows when Nep2no picks up Gaia, and dims over time or whenever Nep2no crashes into walls. The whole game feels like you’re deep in the ocean, with a slightly grainy, distorted filter over all the menus; the levels themselves look otherworldly, with super-saturated colours for the backgrounds and foreboding black walls everywhere. It’s a minimalist approach that matches Abyss’ design philosophy. The soundtrack consists of ambient electronica that fits the mood perfectly, although it’s a disappointingly scant number of songs.

The only contact Nep2no has with the outside world is an unnamed, static-filled voice on the radio. It’s a man with a delightfully Spanish accent narrating your adventure, warning you to “Slow down!” if you hit a wall, or “Woo hoo hoo! Mission complete!” when you reach the end of a level. When you die, he wails a brokenhearted “Nooooooo! Nep2noooo!” In such a bleak, alien game, the accompanying voice makes Abyss feel slightly more lighthearted and human.

The difficulty of Abyss won’t appeal to everyone. There's no tutorial, and the game doesn’t even tell you what the controls are — you have to figure everything out on your own. The low-fi graphics exacerbate the game's difficulty: the muddy, dark gameworld evokes a sense of hopelessness and despair. The learning curve is frighteningly steep, but stick with it and the limited control scheme reveals itself to be deeply nuanced; the “two hits and you’re dead” health system seems daunting, but it’s easy to jump right back into the short levels over and over again until you master them. Once you get into the rhythm, Abyss can be a relaxing, even meditative experience.

Conclusion

Abyss is a small game with limited appeal: tight, difficult controls, a grainy aesthetic, and not much variety in gameplay outside “get to the end of the level.” But developer EnjoyUp Games has embraced this minimalism with a fittingly ambient art style and an ethereal electronic soundtrack. If you take the time to learn them, the controls are nuanced and rewarding in a way that appeals to fans of old school reflex-based arcade-style games. Most importantly, Abyss is available at a particularly low price. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, it may be worth the minimal investment to check out Abyss.

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User Comments (34)

MrWalkieTalkie

#2

MrWalkieTalkie said:

So its an alright game at an insanely cheap price. I'll download it then! After all, I'll just get more download points out of it.

NbaJunkie

#3

NbaJunkie said:

Although this game has limited appeal,it's almostworthgettingjust for the club Nintendocoins.15 coins at 2$. Child of lightat 15$ only netted me 10 coins

ULTRA-64

#7

ULTRA-64 said:

Count me in.....the price is great but I think I'd have paid double for this. It really floats my boat!! ;)

sinalefa

#8

sinalefa said:

I will be getting this. Very cheap and it reminds me of some Earthworm Jim levels. For some reason I thought this one was for 3DS, so even better to see I will be adding another game to my Wii U menu.

jdarrell

#9

jdarrell said:

Could be smoother, if there were other $2 games on the eshop I would recommend passing on this.

Stargazer

#10

Stargazer said:

This game is very simple yet can be very addictive and mesmerizing. I think it's worth the $2, and the 2-player mode is fun.

I agree the jdarrell that the framerate could stand to be smoothed out a bit but it's not that bad.

Stu13

#13

Stu13 said:

I'm loving this game. Turn off all the lights before you play and you can easily get lost in it.

TG1

#14

TG1 said:

I like this game, but anyone who's played Abyss on DSiWare will have issues with the loose controls. Abyss on DSiWare had very tight and responsive controls - not sure what happened here, but they are far worse. Thankfully you can hit the walls now.

ToniK

#15

ToniK said:

With that price it's a buy. These gameplay mechanics always interest me. Simple but rewarding.

Unit_DTH

#16

Unit_DTH said:

I got this game for my 3DS a while back and thoroughly enjoyed it, this is worthy of me double dipping! Gettin' it!

Unit_DTH

#17

Unit_DTH said:

@TG1 I thought the controls were very loose on the DSiWare version of this game, and that was what made the difficulty ramp up in the later levels? Maybe I'm just easily amused.

brandonbwii

#18

brandonbwii said:

I'd like to say that you were a bit too apologetic for the game due to it's low price. Just because it's only $2 isn't an excuse to not include Pro Controller support for example.

Other than that, it was a fun read of a great review.

TG1

#19

TG1 said:

@Unit_DTH Compared to this Wii U release, I thought the controls were much tighter on DSiWare. Even with 1 hit kills, I think the difficulty was more balanced on the handheld. I still like this version (especially at that price!) but even with some additions I can't say it's better.

Emblem

#21

Emblem said:

Hard to say no at £1.79 but the lack of pro controller is very disappointing.

Action51

#22

Action51 said:

I picked this up the day it was released in North America, I was looking forward to it, and it actually exceeded my expectations for a $2 game.

The controls are very tight and fair, the music is nice with a sort of retro-electronica flare, and the graphics are stylish with a real sense of isolation and fluidity.

I highly recommend this...unless you have no patience...because it is somewhat difficult and requires some getting the hang of the controls and level layouts to succeed.

kurtasbestos

#24

kurtasbestos said:

Bleeargh, he's back. Why does EnjoyUp Games insist on ruining the otherwise awesome atmosphere of their games with that horribly annoying voice?

DefHalan

#25

DefHalan said:

If you have the DSi version is the Wii U version still worth it? I liked the DSi version but only played through it once because there wasn't much depth in the gameplay

Austroid

#26

Austroid said:

I'm glad I finally decide to get Abyss after leaving the DSiWare version on my wishlist for the longest time. I've gotta say its quite a challenging game! It took me gosh knows how many tries, just to get through level 1! But I love the minimalistic approach to the game's presentation, music, and gameplay. Its a great game at an insanely great value! :)

Zodiak13

#28

Zodiak13 said:

@bezerker99 You sir are a balla. I read those lines and said "yeah, my skills are the suck these days(years?), I'll pass". Glad to see some good inexpensive eshop titles come to the WiiU. I may actually get this to support these types of games, and heck, maybe see how much hair I can pull out trying to play it :).

andrea987

#29

andrea987 said:

@brandonbwii IMHO, if a game is rubbish (0-4), is rubbish whatever the price, so it shouldn't really be affecting his score (it might still influence someone's decision to buy it or not, though). But for anything above 5 on its own merit, I think price need to be considered whitin its score. It's called value for money.

hephiroth

#30

hephiroth said:

Yes! A $2 game that is a nice, solid 7/10? This is exactly the type of impulse buy that Nintendo needs to be actively courting to add to the eShop. $15 just isn't a throwaway amount, as an example, and sometimes those "I just took a risk and got it" games can be the best.

Obito_Tennyson

#31

Obito_Tennyson said:

This sounds familiar. I may have seen YOGSCAST Sjin play the game on one of his Sjindie Games videos, but I can't remember... I can't find it on Youtube either...

readyletsgo

#32

readyletsgo said:

So is this game €2?

How does the dev make money out of that price? How much would Nintendo get from the €2

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